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April is the Coolest Month – Just Poets Favorite Poem for April 22

As part of National Poetry Month, Just Poets members will share their favorite poems along with a brief note about why the poem is their favorite poem. Today’s poem is selected by Tricia Asklar.

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Agha Shahid Ali

Tonight

   Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar
      – Laurence Hope

Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?
Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?

Those “Fabrics of Cashmere –” “to make Me beautiful –”
“Trinket” – to gem – “Me to adorn – How tell” – tonight?

I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates –
A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

God’s vintage loneliness has turned to vinegar –
All the archangels – their wings frozen – fell tonight.

Lord, cried out the idols, Don’t let us be broken;
Only we can convert the infidel tonight.

Mughal ceilings, let your mirrored convexities
multiply me at once under your spell tonight.

He’s freed some fire from ice in pity for Heaven.
He’s left open – for God – the doors of Hell tonight.

In the heart’s veined temple, all statues have been smashed.
No priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonight.

God, limit these punishments, there’s still Judgment Day –
I’m a mere sinner, I’m no infidel tonight.

Executioners near the woman at the window.
Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.

The hunt is over, and I hear the Call to Prayer
fade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.

My rivals for your love – you’ve invited them all?
This is mere insult, this is no farewell tonight.

And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee –
God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.

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Just Poets Member Statement:

A brilliant ghazal! The refrain (radif) “tonight” and the rhyme (qafia) the “ell” sound, this poem weaves love and despair into the couplets, though they’re thematically independent (as ghazals should be). I adore the makhta – the signature couplet that ends a ghazal – how unlikely to meet Ishmael.

– Tricia Asklar

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“Tonight” appears in Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals, which is available by clicking here.

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